we stand in the kitchen, and he’s putting away the dishes. i’ve been scrubbing away at a pot, but our conversation turned. it generally does, our talks run the span of the world with ease, until we hit certain subjects. and i freeze.
he leans back against the counter, and i against the corner by the door. i almost always have my side facing a door, i know my path out of the room. this matters to me more than what chore i do in the kitchen. even now, maybe especially now, i do not trust the steamy post-dinner aftermath of a kitchen. it’s too risky. i cannot explain it to him still.
bit by bit we work around to this – church, parents, and discipline. he imagines he understands in the little he’s questioned out of me, in the reactions i have to things he’s said or done. but i know he doesn’t really know, because it sounds so unbelievable. because how can it have been real?
but he offers this, ‘shade, we’ve known you for a very long time. there’s not much you can actually say that will surprise me, not much at all.’
so we hover. his question etches itself wide into the air, and the sounds of it are between he and i. it’s a gulf that i could span, if i just opened my mouth and explained. it’s a door i could walk through, if i could shrink my fear enough to find a way out. if i could stop flinching every time he moves.
if, the world is papered with them. they cling like cobwebs to my every move. if i’d never been bad, if i’d never left, if i never told. the last always haunted the most, the idea of exposing just how bad i had been as a kid was overwhelming. i couldn’t stand the twinned ideas of disbelief and revulsion.
because all he said was, ‘a lot of churches are conservative, this doesn’t make them a cult. how do you explain this?’
it drove me, his simple statement of not-quite dismissal. he didn’t know, he didn’t understand.
i’d been talking about the discovery that the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist group was a denomination, a cult, and a danger. that the churches i’d grown up in were part of this group. and so the words came in bits and pieces, and we laid them across the room. in between the soapy dishes and the drying rack, i tried to explain.
without meaning to, his language dominated. without better explaining, he held the ground while i fumbled for enough words. because i felt driven to prove that something was wrong, when i wasn’t even sure i could believe it myself.
our languages were so different, i couldn’t even see a way past it.
i failed the explaining, the words weren’t there. i had no proof, only an increasing trembling in my body as fear ate away the strength i had gathered to keep standing in the same room while we talked. the words are still mostly gone, but every now and then they find their way.
so i keep speaking into the dark.